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Contrary to Fear Mongers: Study Shows Decline in Teen Marijuana Use in Colorado Since Legalization

Denver- A recent survey, overseen by the state Department of Public Health, shows that fewer Colorado high school students are smoking marijuana since it was legalized in the state.

The survey, Healthy Kids Colorado, was given in 2011 and showed that 39 percent of high school students had ever used marijuana, but when the survey was administered in 2013, after legalization, that number had dropped to 37 percent.

The percent of teens that reported use within the past month (current) also declined from 22 percent in 2011, to 20 percent in 2013.

Youth Risk Behavior Survey

In spite of dire warning from prohibitionists who claimed that legalization would dramatically increase teen use, there has actually been a steady downward trend that has continued through the legalization of medical marijuana in 2001, the commercialization of medical marijuana in 2009 when the legal status of medical marijuana was solidified, and now through the legalization of cultivation and recreational use late in 2012.

This data comes from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey to which Colorado submitted their data from the Health Kids Colorado Survey.

What is striking is that when Colorado is pitted against the nation as a whole, there is a much clearer downward trend in youth consumption in Colorado than in the rest of the country.

Nationally, use within the past month (current) by high school students increased between 1995 and 1999, declined slightly until 2007 and has continued to rise through the most recent survey in 2013.

In contrast, Colorado’s past month (current) use numbers went down from 1995 until 2005, went up slightly from 2005 until 2009, and then began decreasing again, which has continued through 2013.

Youth Risk Behavior Survey

These are not the numbers that would be expected if marijuana legalization for adults correlated to increased consumption in high school age children. In fact, more nuanced and detailed studies, have shown that there is not evidence that this correlation exists, as prohibitionists would have you believe.

Mason Tvert, who works with the Marijuana Policy Project and helped spearhead Colorado’s legalization campaign, in an interview with Reason said,

“Once again, claims that regulating marijuana would leave Colorado in ruins have proven to be unfounded. How many times do marijuana prohibition supporters need to be proven wrong before they stop declaring our marijuana laws are increasing teen use? They were wrong when they said regulating medical marijuana would do it, and they were wrong when they doubled down and said making marijuana legal for adults would do it.” 

Jay Syrmopoulos is an investigative journalist, freethinker, researcher, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs. Jay’s work has previously been published on BenSwann.com and WeAreChange.org. You can follow him on Twitter @sirmetropolis and on Facebook at Sir Metropolis.